While visiting neighbors on Wonton Creek in Kent County, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Reed, 21st Regiment, saw four British landing barges from the frigate HMS Loire and schooner HMS St. Lawrence. Reed quickly borrowed a musket and gathered twenty-nine neighbors armed with duck guns and muskets to ambush the British barges as they passed.
On May 30, 1814, Rear Admiral George Cockburn wrote to Captain Robert Barrie on board the HMS Dragon with news that the Chesapeake Flotilla was headed down the Bay towards the Potomac. Cockburn asked Barrie to search for the Flotilla and, if he couldn’t find it, to instead “do any Mischief on either Side of the Potomac which you may find within your Power.”
30 May 1814
My dear Sir
Subsequent to our Conversation of last Night I have received Intelligence that Commodore Barney has again come down with his Flotilla to the Neighbourhood of the Potomac.
The Man who brings the Information states that he saw him the Day before yesterday a few Miles to the Northward of the Cape Lookout— I therefore send You the Auxiliary Force I before intended, but I must beg of you to make use of it to the Northward instead of the Southward by sending it with your own Boats, Tender & ca. to examine St. Jerome’s Creek & to the Patuxent, and covering them at such Distance as you may judge advisable with the Dragon, taking also to your Assistance the St. Lawrence if on communicating with her Commander you find so employing her will not be likely to clash with Promises or Arrangements made with the Blacks landed from her the other Day.
Should you neither gain Information nor see anything of the American Flotilla in or on this Side of the Patuxent, I would have you cause St. Mary’s & Yeucomoco to be looked into, & you may do any Mischief on either Side of the Potomac which you may find within your Power, if this Information which I have received turn out to be incorrect, I can only say in your Operations to the Northward of Point Look out or to the Westward of it, You will consider yourself at full Liberty to act as Circumstances may point out to You as being most advisable for the Service.
The high Confidence I have in your Zeal and Abilities assuring me that I cannot do better than Point out to You the Object, and leave the Rest to your Management, but should you not be able to annoy the Enemy in that Direction we will still hold in View our intended Attack on Cherrystone Creek and perhaps a further Attempt on the other Side opposite to it. The Jaseur has taken another Schooner loaded with Salt Fish, she is gone up to the upper Part of the Bay near Hooper’s Straights— What Capt. Watts has in View I know not.
Let me hear from you as occasion may offer. I am Dr. Sir With much Truth
Yours most faithfully
This letter is cross-posted from the Blog of 1812 courtesy the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum.
On April 10, 1814, Captain Baker, commander of the Sloop Swallow from Baltimore wrote to his wife to share his frightening encounter with a British barge on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County on April 6. The Niles’ Weekly Register shared news of the fight on April 23 writing:
Capt. Baker, of the sloop Swallow of Baltimore, being chased into St Jerome’s creek by a British barge with 16 men with small arms and a 4 pounder in her bow left his vessel and being joined on the shore by two of the inhabitants having own muskets in all commenced a fire upon the enemy and though he had got possession of the sloop compelled him to abandon her with the loss of two killed one of them supposed to be an officer.
The Register published their account of the fight just below an update on the promotion of Admiral Cockburn, calling the British officer a “ruffian” who was “anxious to deserve this distinction by some act of great atrocity and meanness,” and reflecting the tension felt in Baltimore and around the Chesapeake Bay from the tightening British blockade.
“We have arrived at this place after passage of 20 hours from Baltimore. On the 6th instant, at daylight, we were off this place, but the wind being off shore, could not fetch in. At the same time, observed a schooner steering up the bay; also a remarkably long barge with three lug sails coming out of the Potomac. We concluded they were from Washington, bound to Baltimore. There were two or three other vessels in sight down the bay. We hove about and stood in for the creek; the schooner then tacked, stood for the barge, and soon after hauled down her head sails, apparently with a view to anchor, distant about 3 miles. We ran our vessels into the mouth of the creek, and although she grounded in consequence of the tide being so very low at the time, thought ourselves pretty secure should the vessels then in sight prove to be enemies, as we soon were convinced they were. In 30 minutes after we grounded, a boat was discovered coming from the schooner in pursuit of us, distant about one and a half miles. We immediately landed the most valuable articles. We found on further examination of the boat, that she rowed ten oars, carried a four pounder in her bows, and manned with 16 men. There being but three us on board, with two muskets only, I thought it most prudent to leave the vessel: and I do assure you it was with great reluctance we abandoned the Swallow to a set of infernal robbers.
We landed, and two gentlemen, whome I shall ever respect as brave men, by the names of Langley and Hopkins joined us in the combat. On their nearer approach, we hailed, and asked them where they were bound?- They replied by pointing to the sloop. We immediately commenced a brisk fire upon them, which was so well kept up and directed that notwithstanding they succeeded in getting alongside, four only of them dared to ascend the deck. [Capt. B. killed one of them.] One of the gentlemen who joined us, killed another in the stern if their boat, which, I suppose, was an officer. They hoisted the sloop’s sails, and swung her bow out. This exposed to our fire those who had been skulking under her lee in the barge; and in a few minutes we compelled them to leave their prize, after rowing three miles with the loss of two men! We immediately boarded her again, and got her safe into the creek. We received no injury on our side; there being so few of us it required good marksman to do execution.
‘The same boats, I am informed, captured a sch’r from Alexandria, said the be capt Holmes’s. They are making great destruction among the bay craft. A few of our barges would be great service in this creek.”
On April 2 1814, Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane issued a proclamation to attract black recruits from the men held in slavery on farms and plantations across the Chesapeake region. The proclamation was intended to help fulfill his plans (mentioned in his March 10 letter to George Prevost) to combine the “Recruits I expect to raise from the Negroes” with the British Marines and “Keep the Enemy in a constant alarm.”
In The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, historian Alan Taylor observed how the carefully worded proclamation avoided any direct mention of slavery but still emphasized the “FREE” status of any who fled to the British–allowing Cochrane to deny any charge of promoting a slave revolt. Cochrane sent 1,000 printed copies of the proclamation to Cockburn for distribution around the Chesapeake, an effort aided by local and national newspapers that reprinted the proclamation in full. Taylor quotes orders from Cochrane to Taylor identifying the emancipation of enslaved people as a central goal of the 1814 campaign writing:
“Let the Landings you may make be more for the protection of the desertion of the Black population than with a view to any other advantage… The great point to be attained is the cordial support of the Black population. With them properly armed & backed with 20,000 British Troops, Mr. Maddison will be hurled from his throne.”
Many of the black recruits and families that took advantage of the British offer were eventually resettled in Halifax, Nova Scotia. According to Taylor, around 1,200 black refugees arrived between 1813 and 1814 and another 1,611 refugees arrived between April 1815 and October 1818. Among the enslaved people from the Chesapeake who made it to Canada was thirteen-year-old Gabriel Hall (pictured above in an 1895 photograph) who escaped from Walter Wells’s Calvert County farm in July 1814. Learn more about Gabriel Hall from the Maryland State Archives or read on for a transcript of Cochrane’s proclamation.
PROCLAMATION OF VICE ADMIRAL SIR ALEXANDER F.I. COCHRANE, R.N.
By the Honorable Sir ALEXANDER COCHRANE, K.B. Vice Admiral of the Red, and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels, upon the North American Station …. &c, &c, &c.
WHEREAS, it has been represented to me, that many Persons now resident in the UNITED STATES, have expressed a desire to withdraw therefrom, with a view of entering into His Majesty’s Service, or of being received as Free Settlers into some of His Majesty’s Colonies.
This is therefore to Give Notice,
That all those who may be disposed to emigrate from the UNITED STATES will, with their Families, be received on board His Majesty’s Ships or Vessels of War, or at the Military Posts that may be established, upon or near the Coast of the UNITED STATES, when they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies, where they will meet with due encouragement.
Given under my Hand at Bermuda, this 2nd day of April, 1814, ALEXANDER COCHRANE.
By Command of the Vice Admiral, WILLIAM BALHETCHET. GOD SAVE THE KING.
On February 9, 1814, Samuel Hopkins died at home on his 500-acre tobacco farm in Anne Arundel County. Hopkins was survived by his wife Hannah Janey and eleven children—among them Johns Hopkins who was the second child born to the family on May 19, 1795.
Around 1807, the same year Quakers like the Hopkins family played a critical role in abolishing the slave trade throughout the British Empire, Samuel Hopkins emancipated most of the enslaved people on his farm and took Johns and his older brother out of school to work. By the time of his father’s death in 1814, Johns Hopkins had moved to Baltimore where, in 1812, he indentured with his uncle and local store-keeper Gerard T. Hopkins. Gerard was a wholesale grocer with a home at 8 Pratt Street and a store on the County Wharf at the foot of Broadway in Fell’s Point. Samuel Hopkins was later remembered as “an upright, noble-minded man, polite, agreeable and entertaining in conversation, much beloved by his friends and acquaintances, useful in society, his neighborhood and family.”
Source: Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. 1917. Johns Hopkins and Some of His Contemporaries, Henry M. Hurd, M.D. p. 225-226.
On January 24, 1814, the Maryland legislature joined Pennsylvania in chartering a new turnpike company to connect Lancaster County to Baltimore. The state offered a detailed and descriptive title: “An act to enable the governor of this commonwealth to incorporate a company for making an artificial road by the best and nearest route from the Philadelphia and Lancaster turnpike road through the village of Strasburg in Lancaster county to the Susquehanna bridge at McCall’s ferry and from thence to Baltimore.”
In the 1810s, states established countless turnpike companies but road-building remained a potentially challenging and speculative venture. Some projects like the Baltimore and Havre-de-Grace Turnpike (chartered in 1813 but unfinished until 1825) took years to complete. Others, including this road from Baltimore to Strasburg, were never built at all.
On December 30, 1813, the HMS Bramble sailed into the Annapolis harbor under a flag of truce. The ship brought first news of Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in October and a proposal from Foreign Minister Lord Castlereagh to open peace negotiations between the United States and Britain. President James Madison accepted the offer ten days later.